New Roots: Home Grown Institute offers skills, motivations for sustainable life

Imagine an entire weekend dedicated to teaching sustainable skills of all kinds—backyard chicken raising, beekeeping, composting, gardening, healthy cooking and home energy efficiency. The Home Grown Institute, whose inaugural conference is this March, has planned to do just this. The conference is tailored to provide attendees with the skill sets and motivation to transform their own lives through workshops, tours and hands-on experience.

Sarah Gabriel, founder and Wyncote native, envisions the HGI not as an educational vehicle, but as a “container” through which community partners—Weavers Way Co-op, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Friends of the Wissahickon are already on board along with more than two dozen others—can instruct individuals in the types of methods and approaches they can carry back to their own communities.

Gabriel stresses composting, rainwater catchment and growing food, but the conference will feature programs on backyard chicken coops, beekeeping, aqua/hydroponics and other related concepts. The two-day conference includes classroom workshops and “Tour, Learn and Build” field trips to nearby homes already employing the techniques. There will be screening rooms with documentaries and TED lectures, a marketplace and an awards ceremony.

While the annual conference will be HGI’s main focus, Gabriel plans to continue the mission year-round with regular classes, tours and sustainable activities.

“Each person that comes in is going to have a different experience,” says Gabriel, “and my fantasy is that you come out of the Home Grown Institute with a bigger sense of that oneness in your own life.”

Learn more about HGI and register for the March conference at